Times and tech change, but The Villager’s still here

Lincoln Anderson.
Lincoln Anderson.

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON  |  In an age of shrinking print media, community weeklies are still holding their own. Especially now, it’s important to be a known entity, and The Villager definitely is one.

The Villager has a tremendous 80-year tradition of community journalism, which we have endeavored to highlight in this week’s special anniversary section — though, in truth, I feel like it really needs to be a book if not an encyclopedia.

Looking through all the old back issues, one can see how many stories remain the same — the need for parks and schools, concerns over various quality-of-life issues and, yes, over New York University’s expansion. In The Villager’s early years, every time N.Y.U. purchased another townhouse on Washington Square it was duly noted.

I still can’t believe it, but a few years ago, I actually read most of The Villager back issues — not necessarily every page in-depth, but scanning — a lot on microfilm, starting back with April 13, 1933. Obviously, that was a time before computers and Facebook, before TV even.

For the past decade, the Internet has been revolutionizing journalism — and our lives. Today, we have smartphones more powerful than huge computers in the ’80s.

When The Villager began in the Great Depression, Walter Bryan, the paper’s co-founder, made it a cause to turn out as many residents as possible for big sings in Washington Square. The Villager promoted contests for the neighborhood’s best window flowerboxes.

In the 1950s and ’60s, the paper took on a more political edge as reform Democrats came to power through the Village Independent Democrat club. One of them, Ed Koch, became New York’s mayor.

Mike Armstrong kept the paper humming along for 15 years, up through the early ’90s, when Tom and Elizabeth Butson took it over. Tom had been a top New York Times editor, and it was honor to work with him and Elizabeth.

I also learned a lot from my former colleague Albert Amateau. A former editor dubbed him the “Dean of Community Journalism,” and the title was so apt.

John W. Sutter then took over the paper, and I enjoyed working with him as we would break down the latest N.Y.U. plan or Pier 40 request for proposals (R.F.P.). John firmly believed in the mission of community journalism.

Jennifer Goodstein, our new publisher, brings great enthusiasm and a real commitment to improving the company’s business side. She understands The Villager’s history and tradition. Yet,  she also wants to push the paper in new directions.

Our commitment to our core mission — reporting the news, covering the community and the arts, writing independent editorials — remains steadfast.

We’ve covered, and been impacted by, major stories: 9/11, the 2004 Republican National Convention, Hurricane Sandy. Unforgettable.

I’m very proud that The Villager has won the Dorman Award — as New York State’s best community weekly — three times since 2001.

Incredible — 80! Who knows what the future holds, regarding local stories and journalism itself? All we know is that, with the help of our readers, we’ll keep doing our best to cover what matters — and also what intrigues and entertains — and keep striving to put out a paper that people want to read, and to support. Here’s to 100!


Anderson is Editor in Chief of The Villager